Sinai Says: Despite sense of déjà vu, Beitar fans should be careful what they wish for

“If the players believe in me, we will be able to realize our potential. If the fans give me a chance, they won’t regret it.”

By
February 8, 2017 00:36
Beitar Jerusalem

Sharon Mimer. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)

There is little that can compare to the sensation of winning.

Whether you are a player, coach, fan or owner, when your team wins you, too, are a winner.

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But getting accustomed to that triumphant feeling can be a double- edged sword. You become addicted to it and when it is no longer a regular occurrence, the withdrawal symptoms begin to set in.

Just ask Beitar Jerusalem fans.

It may feel like a long time ago now, but it has been only nine years since Beitar won a second straight Premier League title and then completed the double with a State Cup triumph, establishing its status as the dominant force in Israeli soccer under the ownership of Arkadi Gaydamak.

It all began to unravel soon after that, with Beitar’s last title coming in 2009 when it won the State Cup for a second consecutive year.

Beitar has been in a state of emergency for much of the time since, with backers coming and going and the threat of bankruptcy seemingly hanging over the club every summer.

There is a lot that can be said about current owner Eli Tabib, much of it negative, but there is no question that Beitar has finally enjoyed relative stability since he took over the club in the summer of 2013.

Like any owner, Tabib has big aspirations for his team. However, he is also not one who will spend beyond his means, meaning Jerusalem has little chance of competing against the likes of Hapoel Beersheba, Maccabi Tel Aviv, and Maccabi Haifa with their significantly larger budgets.

It is here where Tabib’s realism clashes with the big dreams of fans who can’t forget the taste of past triumphs and believe it is the owner’s lack of ambition which is holding their club back.

Beitar fans have a point. But they also should be thanking their lucky stars for having Tabib.

As seen recently in the case of Hapoel Tel Aviv, Israeli soccer clubs are hardly a hot commodity, even when they can be purchased for almost nothing. It is in fact because of the club’s fans and the anti-Muslim stance of many of them that Beitar has desperately struggled to find someone to finance it time and again over the past decade.

Despite unsuccessful stints as the owner of Hapoel Kfar Saba and Hapoel Tel Aviv, Tabib nevertheless couldn’t resist the temptation of taking over Beitar, but he never had any intention of matching the expectations of the fans.

The differences between the parties were clear for all to see once more this week following the sacking of coach Ran Ben-Shimon.

While the supporters were hoping for an upgrade on Ben-Shimon, whose career has been on a downward spiral since guiding Ironi Kiryat Shmona to the championship in 2011/12, they were instead given a reality-check with the appointment of Sharon Mimer.

The 43-year-old has earned himself a reputation as one of the up-and-coming coaches in Israeli soccer, but has so far done little to back that up. He guided Hapoel Rishon Lezion of the National League for a season-and-a-half before serving as Barak Bachar’s assistant at Hapoel Beersheba for the first half of last season. He was named as Hapoel Kfar Saba’s coach last January, but after helping it avoid relegation from the Premier League, was sacked last month following a 10-match winless streak.

Mimer is an ideal appointment for Tabib. He is cheap and will allow the owner as much involvement as he wants in professional matters, being eternally grateful for being handed an opportunity to coach a big club.

The hiring of Mimer follows the blueprint of Tabib’s previous appointments, with seven different coaches guiding Beitar in the past three-and-a-half years.

The only one to survive a full season was Slobodan Drapic in 2015/16, but he was then not handed a contract extension despite leading the team to a thirdplace finish and European qualification.

Eli Cohen, Roni Levy, Menahem Koretzki, Guy Levy and Ben-Shimon each coached the team between 11 and 22 league matches before being sacked.

Beitar fans may be unhappy with the stature of the coaches being hired by Tabib, but it is his impatience with them and refusal to hand them deserving contract extensions that should concern the supporters far more.

Even if Mimer ends up doing well, it is already hard to see him remaining at the club beyond this season, with Beitar’s official statement following his hiring being all about trying to appease fans who were eyeing a bigger name like Guy Luzon.

“Eli Tabib checked several options, including Guy Luzon, who decided not to repeat his mistake of joining Hapoel Tel Aviv mid-season after not building the squad,” read the statement.

The story behind Mimer’s appointment also says a lot about the way Israeli soccer, and Tabib, operate.

Following Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Bnei Yehuda which ended up being Ben-Shimon’s last match at the helm, Tabib called agent and former player Avi Nimni to consult him on who he thought could replace Ben-Shimon.

Nimni mentioned Mimer as an option and Tabib asked him to check if he would be interested. Nimni called Mimer and asked him if he even had an agent. The coach said he didn’t, but would be happy to become Nimni’s client if he could find him a club.

Mimer was always going to be named as the new coach once Luzon decided he wasn’t interested in the job and he is certain he can win over all his critics, especially those in the stands. is certain he can win over all his critics, especially those in the stands.

“I didn’t expect to receive an offer to coach Beitar after Kfar Saba, but I’m looking forward to this challenge.

There isn’t a coach who would turn down Beitar Jerusalem,” he said on Monday, with his first game at the helm already coming on Tuesday in the first leg of the State Cup quarterfinal against Ironi Kiryat Shmona.

“If the players believe in me, we will be able to realize our potential. If the fans give me a chance, they won’t regret it.”

With the memories of the good old days still fresh in their minds, Beitar fans refuse to lower their expectations. But the fact of the matter is that mediocrity is the best they can hope for at the moment.

No one is standing in line to replace Tabib, and for all his flaws, he is all they have at the moment.

One look at the crumbling Hapoel Tel Aviv should be all they need to understand the alternative.

allon@jpost.com


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